Cornell philosophy professor Kate Manne argues that misogyny is not about male hostility or hatred toward women — instead, it’s about controlling and punishing women who challenge male ideology. Misogyny rewards women who reinforce the status quo and punishes those who don’t. Misogyny can be exercised by men or women. I will return to misogyny later.
The evolution of Social Psychology has much in common with Feminism and: Sociology, Psychology, Politics, Annales History, Anthropology, Philosophy, Semiotics, Cultural Theory, Discourse Analysis, Post Structuralism and Linguistics. These transdisciplines remain absent from any conversation about risk and safety. You can see the evolution of Social Psychology at Figure 1. Mapping the Evolution of a Social Psychology of Risk.
Figure 1. Mapping the Evolution of a Social Psychology of Risk.
It is from this intersection of Feminism, Post-structuralism and Social Psychology that the following blog/critique is offered. I have written before about what a Feminist critique could offer safety (https://safetyrisk.net/can-there-be-a-feminist-safety/). There is also a video from a feminist perspective on safety here: https://vimeo.com/237511120
It was 1975 when I first read Anne Summer’s excellent history Damned Whores and God’s Police, The Colonization of Women in Australia. The title is a quote from Caroline Chisholm and denotes the way women are either objectified sexually or attributed to a policing identity. Summer’s Annales History and subsequent books (https://www.annesummers.com.au/) do a great job of rewriting a History that is profoundly white masculinist, power-centric and fixated on the oppression of minorities.
Safety was set up as a patriarchy and remains so. If it weren’t there would not be so many splinter groups set up against this patriarchy, including SPoR.
What a surprise when I first entered the safety industry to find there was no Feminist voice in or to this industry and continues to be so. A woman’s voice does not necessarily mean it is a Feminist voice (https://issimo.s3.amazonaws.com/static/thirdpartyassets/annesummers/TheWomensManifesto_pdffinal.pdf). In safety, one either complies with the masculinst models of safety or one is marginalized. For Safety it seems that women continue to be Damned Whores and God’s Police. So let’s look at a few examples that demonstrate this to be so.
Example One – Hazardman.
I was astounded when the ACT Regulator came out with the safety campaign Hazardman (https://safetyrisk.net/hazardman-wont-save-you/ ). I wrote letters to Ministers, Opposition, Media and Feminist groups asking how this could be a helpful approach to safety. The campaign remained in the airwaves for 5 years and was not removed because of its sexist complaints but because of budget concerns.
Hazardman is the quintessential hero who saves women from petty hazards. The images of women are as objects complete with tight fitting uniforms exhibiting their bodily features. The campaign was viewed as progressive and included an indoctrination campaign in schools to help inculcate the misogyny into the minds of young girls (https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6150157/holy-safety-hazardman-is-on-the-case/)
You can see the winner of the school competition at Figure 3. Hazardman Winner.
Figure 3. Hazardman Winner.
What was staggering about this campaign was that no-one except myself understood this as a misogynist exercise. The campaign came complete with masculinst dolls see Figure 4. Hazardman Dolls.
Figure 4. Hazardman Dolls.
The campaign was complete with an animation series where the big safety ticket items were petty risk and saving women who were sexualized (https://vimeo.com/433435395). Ah for the Love of Zero (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/for-the-love-of-zero-free-download/) behaviourism and policing PPE (https://issimo.s3.amazonaws.com/static/thirdpartyassets/annesummers/TheWomensManifesto_pdffinal.pdf ).
At no time was there ever a voice raised against Hazardman other than in the pages of the safetyrisk blog (https://safetyrisk.net/hazardman-disappears/ ).
Example Two – Safety Sofie.
When I was last in Europe I was shocked to see a safety consulting company on site called ‘Safety Sophie’. See Figure 5 Safety Sofie.
Figure 5. Safety Sofie.
In Figure 6. Sex Sells, we see Sofie complete with sexy outfits, leaning over men and language with sexual double meanings playing sexy policing on naughty boys who don’t act safely.
Figure 6. Sex Sells
Ah, if you are a safe boy Bill, I’ll give you a Safety Sofie kiss – Figure 7. Sofie Kiss
Figure 7. Sofie Kiss
You can read about Safety Sofie here but of course no suggestion that the strategy is misogynist. Damned Whores and God’s Police indeed.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652616001967 Moreso, Safety seems to think that the message of selling safety as ‘sexy’ is a good thing. And this has been going on for ages:
Just search on Pinterest and see what comes up when you look for ‘Safety is Sexy’ (https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/323062973240750867/), hmmm – objectified women.
So, amidst the tirade of boring safety that loves petty risk, objects, checklists, counting, PPE and policing, it seems the remedy is to call it ‘sexy’ and put a woman-as-object in view. Dammed Whores and God’s Police indeed.
Example Three. Mums For Safety
So, currently running in the theme of God’s Police is the Mum’s for Safety campaign (https://houstongroup.com.au/projects/mums-for-safety/). Ah, where even the CEO of Lend Lease needs policing from his Mum for decision making. Ah, Dumbs for Safety (https://safetyrisk.net/dumbs-for-safety/), does anyone stop for just a second in this industry of objects and think for two seconds about the semiotics, symbolism and unconscious messaging of what it does??? Figure 8. Mum’s for Safety
Figure 8. Mum’s for Safety
The campaign is still running here: https://www.lendlease.com/au/company/about-us/safety/mums-for-safety/ Of course Mum’s in Safety is all bubble wrapped in positivity and if you criticize it, you must be anti-safety, this is how misogyny works. Misogyny is always packaged up along with binary logic to create duty to the status quo. Don’t let it worry you that women are yet again given the policing role against the naughty boys.
Then when you accept the model, it even gets better (https://rokon.com.au/news/2019/10/rokon-takes-lend-leases-mums-for-safety-campaign-to-new-heights/). Hey I know, let’s have a blow up Mum doll on top of the site shed. Ah, Mum is looking over you, let’s project responsibility and policing safety on to her (https://www.9news.com.au/national/workplace-accidents-lendlease-construction-mothers-worry-safety-message/28ba31c3-86d5-49e3-9a7b-13bb63905cf4 )
On some good news, it’s great to see the iconic high heeled stiletto go from the Women in Safety identity (https://www.womeninsafety.net/), took a while. Then how disappointing to see it’s endorsement of zero. If there ever was a more misogynist symbol of control, objectivization, metricization and masculinst power it is zero. Zero is the symbol for bullying, policing and power. Ah, I’m only smashing you and sacking you for your own good but it’s ok, I’m doing it positively for safety!
The heart of Feminism is about much more than sex, gendered roles or sexism but rather a philosophy that values socialitie, cultural meaning and the politics/ethics of risk. You will of course find no discussion of these in safety or in the AIHS BoK.
Unfortunately, one cannot separate the advancement of women in safety without also tackling the deeply toxic focus of an industry that dehumanizes and objectifies humans, especially women. And staying inside the camp, doesn’t change the camp, the camp changes you. Such is the politics of conformity. Do a study of visionaries some time you never find them inside the camp.
And so it seems Safety is quite happy to promote women just as long as its hegemony of duty is not broken. The rules are quite simple:
- Don’t question, criticise or interrogate safety – positivity is god
- Deconstruction is wrong, negativity is bad – leave Lend Lease alone
- Don’t attack founding assumptions of the industry and comply
- Accept the defining roles of safety: control, policing, PPE, counting and power.
- Keep out of the territory of philosophy, let men do that
- Suck up the behaviourist ideology and keep on policing
- Accept masculinst symbology and roles
- Don’t read feminist history especially, post-structuralist critique
- Accept power-centric models of management
- Demonise critical/cultural thinking
And for godsake, don’t read Jane Caro (https://futurewomen.com/culture-2/books/jane-caro-is-an-accidental-feminist/ ), Clementine Ford (https://www.theguardian.com/world/australia-books-blog/2016/sep/28/clementine-ford-theres-something-really-toxic-with-the-way-men-bond-in-australia ) or Kate Manne (https://www.vox.com/conversations/2018/6/6/17409144/jordan-peterson-12-rules-for-life-feminism-philosophy)
Whilst, the three examples in this blog of misogyny are quite obvious and pronounced it is actually the more subtle and unconscious things in safety that are the most destructive. This is how behaviourist, binary and power-centric ideologies pervade the safety space masked by an ethic of duty. Of course duty is the deontological theme for the AIHS BoK Chapter on non-Ethics, what a perfect framework for oppression.
Whilst I understand why women have created their own association in safety it can also be a way of disempowering and marginalizing women to emphasize how non-mainstream women are and force acceptance of masculinst ideology (zero) to remain accepted in the camp.
There’s no better way of keeping critical thinking quashed than duty, obedience and positivity. All wonderful dynamics of the misogynist story. There is no better way at maintaining misogyny than keeping the safety status quo. Any critical thinking must be sidelined and demonsised so that the non-vision of zero is maintained as the mantra and made the vision for an industry with no vision. This is your duty.